The novel coronavirus has dominated life and business in 2020. Daily routines have been disrupted, social gatherings feel like a distant memory, and leisure activities have become more or less a luxury. On the enterprise front, most companies are focused on survival, counting themselves lucky if they fall into the “essential business” category.
With so much going on in the world these days and uncertainty being the only constant, a piece of good news here and there goes a long way to lift sagging spirits. People are social animals, and being deprived of company and entertainment is hard to bear. For Ontario residents with a taste for gambling, there has been some good news lately: a number of casinos have reopened after months of sitting closed despite a second COVID-19 wave sweeping across the province.
So there’s an option now whether to choose playing online in Canada or try your luck in land-based casinos.
The new reality of gambling
Those eager to resume their favourite pastime should be prepared for an entirely new experience. In general, local safety guidelines for re-opening limit the number of patrons on the premises at 50 and prohibit table games. Moreover, there is a two-hour cap on playing times, and reservations have to be made in advance online. The rules include mandatory mask usage, social distancing, and a ban on food and drinks serving.
Let’s take a look at some of the properties open for in-person gambling in Ontario.
Great Canadian Gaming Corporation
The company announced last month that it would be opening the doors of its 11 properties in Ontario on September 28. Among the venues operated by Great Canadian in the province are Casino Woodbine, Casino Ajax, the Great Blue Heron Casino, Shorelines Casino - Thousand Islands, Shorelines Casino – Belleville, Shorelines Slots at Kawartha Downs, Georgian Downs, and Elements Casino Brantford.
However, the company was forced to shutter again one of these properties after the provincial government tightened restrictions to arrest the spread of the virus. Due to the enhanced safety measures, Great Canadian closed Casino Woodbine on October 9, 2020 until further notice.
Early this month, Gateway Casinos announced that it would start with welcoming patrons back to its locations in Woodstock, Clinton, Chatham, and Hanover on October 8 and proceed with re-opening its other locations in Ontario (Innisfil, London, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and Thunder Bay) on October 10. The only venue excluded from the plan is Casino Rama Resort.
The company made it clear this would by no means be a return to business as usual.
“All properties will be restricted to the government-mandated maximum of 50 guests and will only include slot machines. Table games will not be operational, and non-gaming amenities will be very limited. At opening and in the coming days, we will be operating with a reservation and invitation system for our customers only. Due to the 50-customer capacity restrictions, properties will be open to invited My Club Rewards members only. Invited members will be notified by email with details on how to make reservations,” Gateway Casinos explained.
Things are even more subdued at locations operated by Caesars Windsor, which has chosen to keep Ontario’s general public out for the time being and implement an invite-only policy. In a statement ahead of the October 8 re-opening, the company said:
“Caesars Windsor’s re-opening will be limited to slot machines only, adhering to provincial guidelines that restrict indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 guests at any time and does not include table games and other non-gaming amenities. Due to the restricted capacity, the property will open to invited Caesars Rewards members only until restrictions are expanded to include a broader capacity. Invited members will be notified by email and will be required to make a reservation in advance.”
Given the fluidity of the pandemic situation, any return to business remains a risky proposition. Casino operators have to be extremely flexible and ready to act at very short notice. As for patrons starved of entertainment, the best course of action is to temper their expectations and simply grab any chance at a spot of gambling. Until things return to normal – whatever that may look like in a post-pandemic world – safety comes first.
Daily updates on casino operations across Ontario can be found at https://www.gamingdirectory.com/covid-19/canada/ontario/.